Standing Up for Animals: an interview with Sara Pascoe
Chances are you’ll have seen Sara Pascoe on telly. If you didn’t catch her on Never Mind the Buzzcocks Christmas Special, or on QI (which she won), maybe you remember her being blasted by Peter Capaldi in The Thick of It, or sucking up to Jessica Hynes in Twenty Twelve, or playing a ghost in cult drama Being Human. The award-winning comedian and actor with “nothing less than full mega-watt charisma” (Guardian) recently took time out to talk to Louise Wallis:
How did you first get into stand-up?
As an experiment the first time. Then it became a passionate hobby, and then my profession – all by accident rather than design. I was an actor, and creatively frustrated much of the time, working to pay my rent in jobs I hated. So I went to open mic nights as a character and wrote my own skits to entertain myself really. And then that extended into straight stand up.
I hear your dad was on Top of the Pops. Did you inherit the performer gene from your parents?
Yes my dad’s a musician but never encouraged us to perform, although me and my sister Cheryl loved amateur dramatics and singing through our teens. My Mum doesn’t perform at all, but she is an unintentionally hilarious woman.
Comedy heroes (past and present)?
Tina Fey, Josie Long, Bridget Christie, Maria Bamford and Sean Cullen. All from the present I guess, I have no comedy heritage, I never consumed any before I started stand up 6 years ago.
I want to write books. Fiction and non-fiction. I want to have a beautiful old desk in a house with a garden teeming with pussy cats.
What was it like doing Live at the Apollo?
Like an out of body experience. I couldn’t believe that I was there, and so early in my career. It was like stepping inside the television. Utterly surreal and unforgettable.
I’m a big Father Ted fan. What was it like to tour with ‘Dougal’ aka Ardal O’Hanlon?
He’s an incredibly wonderful and charming man, and obviously hilarious. The kind of comedian that absolutely anybody would enjoy. I’ve seen him in plays too, he is so super talented!
The Mighty Boosh: Noel Fielding or Julian Barrett ?
You’d have to torture me before I chose! I adored the Boosh and respect them both individually and separately so much. I was a bit of a super-fan and very influenced by them when I started stand up. They made me realise that adults could be silly.
On Never Mind the Buzzcocks, the team captains kept referring to you as “The Vegan”. Did you feel a tad stereotyped?
Nah, no one was mean, people are often just curious, and I was glad that I was talking about it on such a high profile show as it might make people think about trying it themselves. There are so many silly stereotypes about veganism being unhealthy or angry and preachy, that I enjoy being the opposite of what might be expected.
When did you become vegan, and why?
I was doing a project for the London Word Festival called ‘100 days to be a better person’. I’ve been vegetarian since I was seven (my first visit to a farm), but when I read a book about dairy and egg farming I realised that I had to go further. And then I felt so much better – lighter and with more energy – that I stayed vegan after the project was finished.
But where do you get your protein? 🙂
Quinoa, and lentils, my friend. And tofu, although I am not allowed to eat as much of it as I used to, as I am on a diet to balance my hormones – thanks to an underactive thyroid and polycystic ovaries.
So, are you a soya, nut, hemp, oat or rice milk kind of gal?
Rice or almond milk now. It used to be soya but because of the health thing I can’t have it now (unless I’m desperate and its the only option). Soya can affect a woman’s hormones so it should be balanced where possible.
Are you a good cook?
Being vegan has made me better, but I usually only make soup or curry. I’m a better eater than a cook, but I love finding a new dish and then making it ALL THE TIME until I am sick of it. Also cooking and then freezing food makes me feel like I am winning at life.
Fave vegan dish?
Homemade lentil shepherds pie, or a vegan roast where all of the vegetables have different seasonings. I am in love with roast potatoes.
Is food a challenge on tour?
I have to be organised, but I know what I can eat and where to get it, and it’s much better than it used to be. I have so much respect for the people who became early vegans before there were any options or cafes or sections in supermarkets.
What’s the best and worst thing about being vegan?
The best is that I know I am not complicit in animal suffering. There are no downsides, I don’t miss anything anymore.
The concept of compassion is closely connected with religion/ spirituality (especially Buddhism), although followers do not always extend this to animals. As an atheist, how do you feel about compassion?
I think compassion is the most beautiful incredible thing, and that it is linked with personal happiness. And forgiveness too. The tenets of most religions are based on the most worthy ways that human beings can behave and I have huge and total respect for people who follow spiritual paths to live better, and I try to learn from them.
The Vegan Society recently celebrated its 70th birthday. How shall we all celebrate?
By counting up how many vegans there are (more all the time), let’s all be thrilled and have a lovely dance!
© Louise Wallis
This article was published in Vegan Life magazine November 2014